Frank Vandenbroucke danced back into the limelight with a great ride in Het Volk. His thoughts on that race, Paris Nice, the Valkenberg and childhood...
Quickstep Volk 2003
You looked particularly nervous, Saturday morning, prior to the Omloop Het Volk -
VDB "Indeed, I was very quiet, or to put it another way, extremely concentrated on the job in hand. It should be understood that after all I have been through, and the amount of work I had put in, Saturday was extremely important for me."
But at the end of the day, you seemed to be relieved.
VDB "Absolutely! I always knew that I could still ride a bike, that I could not have lost the qualities which made me a racing cyclist. My winter work consolidated that thought. Moreover, all the data collected during testing proved it. But figures remain figures. It was necessary to prove that in a race I was still amongst the top men. I did that at Het Volk. Now, all the doubts are gone. And I was only at 75% of my potential fitness level.”
You looked tired at the finish in Lokeren.
VDB "And how! Physically, I really was on my last legs. Sure, I finished fourth, but for the last 100 km I was in the red! Television viewers probably saw my little attack on the Eikenberg, but, for me, it was the Valkenberg when I made my most critical effort of the day. I had punctured right before the hill and I had to fight like the devil to get back to the front of the race. It's true, at the finish I was tired.”
Does this encouraging performance enable you to draw a line under the past and now concentrate on the future?
VDB "That’s exactly right. I do not want to think about the past any more. I do not want to speak about it any more either. From now on only the future interests me. It has started rather well."
Aren’t you afraid that you might pay for the efforts demanded by Het Volk?
VDB "No, not really. I needed to go push myself to the limit. Partly for morale, but also for my condition for the rest of the season. Between Ghent and Lokeren, I made a valuable improvement to my overall condition. Without doubt this will be useful to me during the next few races. Not to mention, obviously, the confidence I gained by finishing just behind the winners."
Now that you are back in the limelight once again you will have to cope with certain pressures?
VDB "I do not have a problem coping with the pressures of my sport. That is an integral part of a professional cyclists trade."
Frank Vandenbroucke will next race in the Paris-Nice. A race he knows well. In 1998, (still only 24 years old) he beat Laurent Jalabert into second place with a masterful and versatile ride. He stamped control in the Parisian prologue and then consolidated his position by winning at altitude on the Col de la République. In 1999 he won again in through the clouds at Valberg (99), but his two wins in the Vuelta that year were the last time “Frankie Boy” stood on the top of a podium.
What are your goals in the Paris-Nice, because, already, people are starting to talk of VDB back amongst the elite riders?
VDB "Let me make it clear, Paris Nice is not a target regarding General Classification. I always maintained that the Classics are my goal as Het Volk proved. Then there were just three riders better than me. But that was a one day race. To win the overall in a race like Paris-Nice, you must ride like that all week, without one bad day and head on against the specialists."
So the “Race to the Sun” will be a training ride for the Classic campaign?
VDB " No, I wouldn’t say that either. I will go to Paris-Nice determined to get a result, maybe on one of the more difficult stages. But it is true that just by riding a stage race like this will improve any rider, the changes of speed, climbing the Cols gives any rider constancy. Besides, every professional rider knows that races like Paris-Nice and Tirreno-Adriatico are essential rides and absolutely crucial races for those who want to excel in the major Classics over 250 kilometres."
So the Classics and the World Cup races are your target this year?
VDB "Exactly. Because I will never really believe that I am back unless I win one of the great Classics, which, as a child I dreamed of winning...
The original interview can be found here.